We went to Brownwood on Thursday. We had some Walmarting to do and I was sick so I sat on the bench by the check-out registers for a while. As I sat there I saw the great unwashed of the world walking by. Less than half had all of their teeth or a combination of their real teeth and dental inserts. I guarantee less than half had ever bought or worn as much as a whole carat at one time, in one item. None of the people there would have thought twice about suspenders and a belt. I watched and realized with no doubt what-so-ever that I was at home. I am not trying to be funny about this. It is what I am realizing is the new and, to me, exciting reality for my life.
When I am not at work with the Economic Development Corporation I do not have to care if I am dressed right or wrong. I really don’t even have to care if my fly is up or down. I do not have to care if I am wearing gang colors or not since there is no gang presence in Coleman. I do not have to worry about combing, brushing or bathing for any reason other than I want to care about these things. People in the city talk about the hicks and rednecks and how backwards they are and there are probably plenty of examples, but at the same time there is a lot of tolerance for each other out here.
Let me give an example. The ladies that are the staff at the Chamber of Commerce here are two of the finest ladies in the community. They are well connected and good church going ladies. One is the wife of a City Councilman. There is a developmentally challenged fellow that comes by each day. They visit with him, give him a coke and laugh at his jokes. When he leaves they go on about their work. There are no comments about him or their standing relative to his. They just take care of him as best they can with what they have on hand because he is as much a part of the community as they are. End of story.
This is a level of decentness I’m adjusting to. I am too used to the situation described above degenerating into a laugh-fest as soon as the person is out of the room. Much to my shame I would have participated in, if not led, the joking. I think there are too many of us in the cities. With so many people it is easy to take one another for granted. Out here, in a county with less then 10,000 people, it is not so easy to just look the other way and ignore those people that are in need. We can’t be comforted with the thought that someone else will take care of the problem as there just aren’t that many people to go around.
What kills me more than anything out here is the feeling that no cares about us beyond our own little enclaves. As I sat at the front of the Wal-Mart Thursday all I could think of was how these folks were as far from the seats of power in this State and Country as they were from being as rich as Sam Walton. Six months ago I got to play a small bit in the power arenas of the Metroplex and Austin. The pressure was high, but the food was great, the cigars were Cuban and the liquor was free. I Walmarted in Grapevine plenty of times, but never once did I get the feeling I was watching and being a part of a group with very little ability to actually get representation in Austin or Washington. Yet there are a whole lot more folks like the group at the Brownwood Wal-Mart than at the Grapevine Wal-Mart. Sooner or later this group will find its voice and that voice will not be Republican or Democratic. It won’t be Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan. It will be someone in the middle with a feel for common people. Howard Dean had the right general idea of grass roots involvement and small gifts from many, he just turned out to be too liberal and loud and full of venom for mainstream America.
Next time I’ll write about chickens and sheep and such. I just had some venting to do as I find myself more and more disillusioned with the political process.